Liberal Democrats

Kay Barnard

Working For You

What on earth was the recent kerfuffle over olive oil in restaurants about?  In May, Dacian Cioloş, the EU Commissioner responsible for Agriculture and Rural Development, decided that fraud in the sale of substandard olive oil in restaurants was so widespread that he needed to introduce a ban on sales of unlabelled olive oil.  In future all olive oil in cafes and restaurants across the EU would have to be sold as sealed sachets or from labelled, pre-sealed, non-refillable bottles.    

This is already the case in Portugal, but was there really an over-riding need for such an EU-wide ruling?  Not surprisingly there was an outcry in the press from across Europe.  According to the Guardian, the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung described the move as the "weirdest decision since the legendary curvy cucumber regulation".  (It'simportant tio note that the detailed regulations on quality standards for most fruit and vegetables were dropped in July 2009 when it became apparent that classifying them so tightly had led to huge wastage as retailers refused to buy anything except Class 1, even though Class 2 etc were perfectly edible).

Now call me small-minded but I thought one of the aims of local authorities’ Trading Standards Departments is to help prevent customers from being duped by substandard goods.  According to the Trading Standards Institute, “trading standards officers (TSOs) work for local councils advising on consumer law, investigating complaints and, if all else fails, prosecuting traders who break the law. These laws cover a wide area, which includes counterfeit goods, product labelling, weights and measures.”

What would an EU regulation achieve that proper policing by local authorities couldn’t? 

In this case, uproar from ordinary people and the press caused the proposed legislation to be dropped.   In essence you and I were Popeye coming to olive oil’s rescue.  And that is to be something to be really welcomed.


18 June 2013

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